In her book "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals," Jane Mayer of The New Yorker Magazine offers, if not an explanation of the coming together of these people, then certainly a disturbing look into the means and methods they used to violate every single tenet of the rule of law so necessary to self-government and international trust. The list of names - familiar now to anyone following the almost daily revelations of criminal activity at the highest level of the BCF - include not just advisors to George W. Bush, but also the Vice President, cabinet members, military consultants, intelligence officers, department heads, regulatory agency administrators, on and on and on.
As NY Times columnist Bob Herbert writes today, "Mayer . . . devotes a great deal of space to David Addington, Dick Cheney's main man and the lead architect of the Bush administration's legal strategy for the so-called war on terror. She quotes a colleague as saying of Mr. Addington: 'No one stood to his right.' Colin Powell, a veteran of many bruising battles with Mr. Cheney, was reported to have summed up Mr. Addington as follows: 'He doesn't believe in the Constitution.'"
Consider that. The chief advisor to the man actually running U.S. policy, foreign and domestic - Dick Cheney - is someone who does not "believe in the (U.S.) Constitution."
Perhaps you remember Addington's recent appearance before the House Judiciary Committee where, under subpoena to testify, he displayed an arrogance identical to the Nazi war criminals brought before the tribunals at Nuremberg. When asked - based on the advice he had given Cheney and Bush - if it would it be legal to torture a detainee's child in order to extract information Addington snarled, "I'm not here to render legal advice to your committee. You do have attorneys of your own."
As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank reported concerning Addington's "f*ck you" attitude to the House Committee, when Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Fla.) questioned his failure to remember conversations about interrogation techniques, he only looked at her and asked: "Is there a question pending . . .?" Finally, at the end of the hearing, Addington was asked whether he would meet privately to discuss classified matters. "You have my number," he said.
Addington - in a manner identical to that employed by Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Goering, chief architects of the Nazi High Command - was willing to define the law as whatever was necessary to accomplish the objectives of the BCF. The legality or illegality of those actions was not a matter Addington considered of the least importance. Nor, history has shown, did such concerns influence Goering or Goebbels.
As Herbert writes, "In the view of Mr. Addington and his acolytes, anything and everything that the president authorized in the fight against terror - regardless of what the Constitution or Congress or the Geneva Conventions might say - was all right. That included torture, rendition, warrantless wiretapping, the suspension of habeas corpus, you name it."
This is the mind-set, Herbert adds, "that gave us Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and the C.I.A.'s secret prisons, known as 'black sites.'" Is it not also the "mind-set" that gave the world Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen and the deaths and burnings of millions of innocent human beings?
Shouldn't we take notice and react when Mayer writes in her book or Herbert writes today in the Times, "When constraints of the law are unlocked by the men and women in suits at the pinnacle of power, terrible things happen in the real world. You end with detainees being physically and psychologically tormented day after day, month after month, until they beg to be allowed to commit suicide. You have prisoners beaten until they are on the verge of death, or hooked to overhead manacles like something out of the Inquisition, or forced to defecate on themselves, or sexually humiliated, or driven crazy by days on end of sleep deprivation and blinding lights and blaring noises, or water-boarded."
This, then, is the essential foundation of the legacy of George W. Bush's catastrophic eight years in office, a Presidency that was not his and should never have been given to him.
Indeed, the U.S. shamed itself on George W. Bush's and Dick Cheney's watch, a shame that will take years to erase - if ever it can be erased. Herbert writes, "Ms. Mayer noted that Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the late historian, believed that 'the Bush administration's extralegal counterterrorism program presented the most dramatic, sustained and radical challenge to the rule of law in American history.' Mr. Schlesinger added, according to Mayer: "'No position taken has done more damage to the American reputation in the world - ever.'"
The citizens of modern Germany would understand that summation - when applied to their own country - to a far greater degree than we Americans understand its application to us.